After a week full of lambs, jack o’lanterns and cog railways it’s time to meander down the Atlantic Coast a ways to the great state of New Jersey. I have to admit that before I started my research, I was glad New Jersey fell this week since we’re leaving on vacation on Friday and we’re going to have to condense things a bit. I figured a tiny state meant not too much to account for. Boy was I WRONG. I have found so much about New Jersey that I have really had a hard time figuring out how to best fit it all in. It may be tiny, but it’s mighty! First of all there are a whole lotta people packed into one place in an area that has the densest system of highways and railroads. It’s known for everything from chemicals to diners to all KINDS of famous faces (including the only President to serve two inconsecutive terms). So my apologizes to New Jersey, you’ve proven to me that you’re more than a silly TV show or a place to cut through from Philadelphia to New York City. I’m hoping I can prove the same to the kiddos this week because I have no shortage of really cool things to share with them. So here we go through “The Garden State!”
Among its important industries, New Jersey ranks highest among the states in chemical production, playing home to over 1,000 chemical plants. They produce nearly 1/6 of the pharmaceuticals for the United States. (It is sometimes called “The Medicine Chest of the World”) Seventeen of the world’s twenty largest pharmaceutical leaders are located in New Jersey including such companies as Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Novartis. New Jersey is also the site of 2,200 open or active clinical trials. Companies in the state produce everything from personal care products such as shampoo and lotion to detergents and paints. On the agricultural side of things, “The Garden State” is known for its greenhouse and nursery products, specifically roses, chrysanthemums, geraniums, lilies, orchids and poinsettias. Important food crops include asparagus, bell peppers, eggplant, endive, lettuce, spinach, blueberries and cranberries. If all that wasn’t “mmm, mmm good” enough – New Jersey is also the birthplace of Campbell’s Soup Company. The 150 year old company with the iconic can is now the parent company for other well known brands including (my favorite!) Pepperidge Farms, Prego, Pace and Swanson.
Just when I thought I had safely navigated us through the ‘sin’ of Vegas a few weeks back, Jersey’s Atlantic City definitely earned a spot of the “Famous For” wall this week. Best known for its casinos (a total of eleven) and famed Boardwalk (the first in the country) I had fun telling the kiddos about a few of Atlantic City’s lesser known claims to fame. If you’re a board game enthusiast, you can thank Atlantic City with providing all the street names in Monopoly. From Baltic Ave all the way to the famed Boardwalk! I had a lot of fun looking at these pictures of the actual streets as they appear now. And if you have a stick sweet tooth, you can trace the origins of saltwater taffy to the city when in 1883 Candy store owner David Bradley's shop was flooded during a major storm resulting in his entire stock of taffy being soaked with salty Atlantic Ocean water. When a girl came by looking for taffy he (jokingly) offered her some of the ocean soaked taffy which she ended up buying. Word of the sticky treat spread up and down the shore and was soon being produced by multiple stores and sold along the Boardwalk. I have a feeling that both these things may be showing up around here this week.
When it comes to famous natives, perhaps New Jersey having the highest population density in the country (there is an average of 1,030 people per square mile in New Jersey! If you’ll remember, it was 5 in Montana.) has something to do with it From author Judy Blume to ‘Old Blue Eyes’ himself I was blown away by how many famous folks hail from “The Garden State.” (And no, I’m not including the cast of Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of New Jersey or fictional residents such as The Sopranos and Stephanie Plum among them). Don’t believe me? In the 20th century alone, just to name a few, New Jersey gave us Abbot and Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Meryl Streep, Joe Pesci, Jack Nicholson, Bon Jovi, Paul Simon, and Jerry Lee Lewis. And that’s just entertainment related! New Jersey is also the home state of the only person to hold the title of United States President for two non-consecutive terms, Grover Cleveland. Both the 22nd and 24th President, Cleveland is also the only President to be married in the White House.
One of New Jersey’s most famous residents was not born there (Ohio claims him!) but his contributions to humanity during his residency earned him the title “The Wizard of Menlo Park.” In 1876, Thomas Edison opened the first industrial research lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey (now named Edison). The Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park now stands at the site of the lab where Edison patented 400 inventions during his tenure. The most well-known of his inventions during this period were the phonograph (Fun state project tie in – his first recorded message of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” paid homage to last week’s state of New Hampshire!) and the first commercially practical incandescent light bulb. While Edison did not really ‘invent’ the light bulb, Edison’s usually mistakenly give credit for this because his version was made of an effective incandescent material, had a higher vacuum than others were able to achieve by use of the Sprengel pump and a high resistance that made power distribution from a centralized source economically viable. (Friedel, Robert, and Paul Israel. 1986. Edison's electric light: biography of an invention. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. pages 115–117)
One of Edison’s later inventions of the Kinetoscope which was an early version of the motion picture camera made it possible for Camden inventor Richard Hollingshead to create one of my favorite summer traditions – the Drive-In Movie! Opened on June 6, 1933, the Park-In Theater was inspired by Hollingshead’s mother's struggle to sit comfortably in traditional movie theater seats. This led him to come up with the idea of an open-air theater where patrons watched movies in the comfort of their own vehicle. His first location had 400 slots for vehicles and he advertised with the slogan ‘The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are”. At their peak in the 50’s and 60’s, there were over 4,000 drive-in theaters in the United States. Sadly there are very few still in existence though my kiddos have actually had a great drive-in experience at The Field of Dreams just outside of Tiffin, Ohio and I know nearby we could check out Compuware Arena if we needed a fix this week.
My sports loving family should be eternally thankful for the state of New Jersey. Not only does the state play host to its own New Jersey Devils, the huge Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford is actually home to both New York Giants and New York Jets. Both teams are housed at MetLife Stadium which was host to this year’s Super Bowl XLVIII. That all pales in comparison (for me) to the fact that Elysian Fields in Hoboken is believed to be the site of the first organized baseball game. On June 19, 1846 the Knickerbocker Club of New York City was trounced (23-1) by the New York Base Ball Club in the first organized game between two rival teams on record. In addition, though it didn’t feature my favorite boys in maize and blue, the first collegiate football game also took place in New Jersey. On November 6, 1869 Rutgers took on Princeton at Rutgers campus in New Brunswick. The first game was played using different rules (and equipment – the ball was round!) than are currently used, but thanks to New Jersey I know how my crew loves to spend their Saturday afternoons every fall! Even more, if you’re a hoops fan, the first professional basketball game took place in Trenton on November 7, 1896. The players were each paid $15 (except for the captain of the winning team who was paid $16) and the home team won by a score of 15-1. I’d say all that packs a whole lotta sports into one tiny state!
I started things off on our culinary adventure with a meal straight from the Boardwalk, New Jersey Hot Dogs. After my crew raved over how much they loved the Chicago style dogs from Illinois I figured it was only fair to let Jersey have a shot to top it. Speaking of toppings – I was a little leary of a hot dog that was topped with potatoes of all things, but oddly enough, it works! You can’t have a hot dog without fries, so I also made these New Jersey Disco Fries. These can be found in almost any New Jersey diner and our similar to the French Canadian dish poutine. French fries covered in cheese – you can be assured that these didn’t last long around here. I have a fun ‘boardwalk’ dessert for later in the week, but because I was off early to a PTA meeting and couldn’t squeeze them in tonight, Noah made (pretty much totally unassisted) a super easy (and super yummy) Blueberry Dump Cake . Blueberries are an important crop in New Jersey and this was a fun way to use them tonight and a great way to get the kiddos help in the kitchen. (Kristi’s recipe note – I didn’t melt the butter like the recipe suggests. We actually cut the butter into the cake mix and then spread it over the berries. I thought it would cook more evenly this way. Just a suggestion!)
I don’t feel like I’ve even begun to cover everything special to New Jersey (including The Statue of Liberty depending on which side of the dispute you fall) and don’t even get me started on the accent! But I’ve done the best I can, and hopefully you’re on board for a New Jersey adventure this week. I’ve got some fun things planned before we head out on Friday, and I’m hoping to recruit my engineering husband for a Menlo Park-like demonstration at some point. So hang with us this week, it’s bound to be Jersey-tastic!
New Jersey Fun Fact of the Day: Modern paleontology, the science of studying dinosaur fossils, began in 1858 with the discovery of the first nearly complete skeleton of a dinosaur in Haddonfield, New Jersey. The Hadrosaurus is the official New Jersey state dinosaur.
Good behavior out grocery shopping = rides on Sandy
2 cents, 2 very happy kiddos
Noah shows his dump cake making skills in a few easy steps
All his own!
Noah's finished dump cake
New Jersey Style Dogs!